The Youth Empowerment Revolution: Part Two

Life lessons from YINC.

More so than ever, it is incredibly important for young people to be empowered to make an impact on the world. The current state of global affairs: school shootings in America, deforestation in the Amazon and gendered violence in Australia — to name just a few — is somewhat dismal. Radical social change is both necessary and achievable, and it is young people, like me, who are key players in making it happen.

After completing the first stage of the YCA program — which was hosted by the City of Sydney at Customs House — my team and I progressed to the second stage, YINC, hosted by the startup incubator Muru-D.

The step up from the original program was immediately noticeable. Our input was taken much more seriously, our ideas were analysed with thorough scrutiny, and more interesting, complex conversations ensued as a result. The level of increased responsibility, and consequently the increased pressure, was totally intimidating — and I loved it.

Part of this step up involved our team, Piecemeal, being paired with a mentor whose skill set matched the specific industry our social enterprise was targeting: sustainable fashion. Vid, our mentor, worked with us over the course of the program to dig deep into the potential flaws in our business model and the ways to deal with them. This became uncomfortable at times — it was suddenly impossible to shy away from any of the elements in creating a social enterprise that I had previously avoided. My mental capacity was often pushed to its limit trying to decipher potential ways to problem solve issues of a complexity I hadn’t dealt with before — but it was so, so worth it.

Through this process of intensive analysis and validation, my team and I began to reach an unfortunate conclusion. As great as our social enterprise had seemed in theory — it simply wasn’t going to work when applied practically. This was mainly due to a key contradictory flaw in our unique value proposition: it would be impossible to keep the stories behind each garment personal enough to do the creator justice while also expanding the business to employ more workers and make a wider social impact.

At first, this realisation was crushing (and honestly, slightly embarrassing). However, Vid was able to provide our team with three key insights into the benefits of stopping where we were at that made the whole process a lot more bearable.

Firstly: fail fast, fail early.

Having already shed so much blood, sweat and tears over an idea that was beginning to feel like my little baby, the concept of having to ditch it at this point seemed awful. I can only imagine how much harder it must be for businesses that have been working on a project for months, or even years.

However, as hard as it is to admit your errors — if an idea is destined to fail from the start, then stubbornly keeping at it is only going to waste valuable resources and time.

Secondly: celebrate your failures.

Wallowing in the grief of feeling as if all your efforts have gone to waste is so easy to do — but so destructive to a team. Vid told us that it’s actually good to realise something isn’t going to work early, so that you can look at where you went wrong and go from there. In this way, it’s important to celebrate your failures, as from every failure there comes a huge learning opportunity, which shouldn’t be ignored.

Thirdly: it’s so much more about the journey than the destination.

While this phrase has become painfully clichéd from overuse, it still holds so much merit. Over the course of both stages of the Young Change Agents program, I have learnt so much, made so many memories, and connected with so many brilliant people. I am thoroughly awed by the indescribable range of new skills that I have been equipped with, and the way in which my whole worldview and view of myself has shifted.

So, even though my team and I didn’t exactly reach the destination we were hoping for, the journey there was a great one, and continues to lead me in amazing directions. It has lead me here — and I can’t wait to see where it will take me next.